The London 2012 Olympics was my first major championship. It was a huge step up in competition for a young Scottish lass who was more at home racing the cross-country routes over the dunes of Irvine or competing in front of the empty stands at Grangemouth Stadium. It was a monumental experience and propelled me into a new world. It confirmed to me that this is exactly what I wanted to do and exactly where I wanted to be – competing on the greatest stage of them all.
Fast forward five years and although I would never have believed it, I have the opportunity to re-live those fond memories of 2012 at the World Championships in London next month.
Not only am I five years older but I’m five years stronger, five years more confident and five years more driven to achieve my goals. It’s not been an easy five years by any means. I have had a real roller-coaster of a journey filled to the brim with injuries, illness and with an Olympic Final and European Medal thrown in along the way too. But the prospect of being a part of a major championship on home soil makes it all worthwhile. With a World Qualifying time under my belt – the only thing needed to secure my spot on the team was a top two finish at the British Championships.
After my first ever DNF in the Rome Diamond League last month (June 2017), I threw myself back into training and was more determined than ever to get things back on track and make that race a distant memory.
Looking back now, my body was tired, it was giving me all the signals to slow down but I ignored them. Due to various factors both during the competition in Rome and the journey home, I was beyond exhausted. The sensible decision would have been to take it easy for a few days to let my body recover and then get stuck into training again. However, our bloody-minded attitude as athletes is to get back on the horse! I was angry at myself for dropping out of the race and wanted to prove a point. Just three days later, I pulled my hamstring.
The muscle had felt tight all day but I was stubborn and wanted to continue training. After just 400m, I felt something in my hamstring ping – like a rubber band snapping. Hobbling to the car, my heart sank. How could this happen…just two weeks out from trials?! I was furious at myself for not listening to my body and backing off. An MRI scan revealed I had a grade 2/3 10cm tear. I couldn’t believe it. Particularly as hamstring tears are very unusual in distance runners. I was surprised I even had a hamstring muscle to tear in the first place!
Luckily, the tear was on the edge of my hamstring and with the right treatment, it would only mean a recovery time of 3-4 weeks. Unfortunately, time wasn’t something I had! I had to get injections into the muscle to calm some of the inflammation and then again to ease some of the neural pain I was experiencing. Three days before the British Champs, I went to the track to try a small jog and a few strides. Jogging wasn’t an issue but after a single 150m stride I felt the muscle spasm and start to strain. The doctors and physio decided there was no way I could race and so I was given a medical to miss the British Championships.
Missing the champs would leave my selection for London 2017 in the hands of the selectors. Laura Muir was absent due to injury and I knew she would get the discretionary third spot. This left the top two places at trials open. Steph Twell was a ‘dead cert’ to take the win and secure her spot on the team but that second place was up for grabs. Although I knew that even if I missed the trial, I was in a strong position to take the slot having run one of the fastest times this year but the selection policy states that a top two finish means automatic qualification, providing they run 15.22. With a number of talented female runners breaking through, there were a few girls capable of getting that time, and you can never rule anyone out, especially some of the younger athletes like Jess Judd. I couldn’t leave my fate down to others – the only option was to race.
After two weeks off, I wasn’t sure how my fitness would be, never mind if my leg would withstand the distance. It’s the first time I’ve gone into a race not looking to win – second place was all I needed. I knew that my injury wouldn’t withstand a fast sprint finish and that I had to maintain an even, steady pace. So I hit the front to push the pace with three laps to go. It was my best opportunity to gain a top two finish and my only chance of finishing in one piece. It’s not my typical race tactic but it worked. It’s still frustrating to know that I know that in another seven days, it would have been a different story. The last lap is usually the strongest part of my race and I look forward to getting that back as I gradually build up my running again.
I spotted my mum and boyfriend standing in the crowd and tried to hold back the tears as I gave them a big hug. ‘We did it’, she said into my ear. And she was right. I may have run the race but my family are the ones who drive me to keep going. I also couldn’t thank my physio, Chris Bramah, enough for working endlessly to get me to the start line. I can’t wait to make them all proud in London. This sport may be seen as an individual one but there are many people who hold the whole puzzle of an athlete’s success together.
I also want to thank Lindsays for their unwavering support over the last three years. I genuinely can’t thank them enough for continuing their help – throughout the good times and bad. They’ve believed in my abilities when others have doubted. Thank you again for being on this journey and a crucial part of this puzzle.